Tag Archives: weekly writing tips

Four Notes from an Acquisitions Editor

Here, some notes taken from the last 1000 stories I’ve read as an acquisitions editor. I took a close look at why some stories read better than others.  Naturally, every editor is different, but these were my personal observations, presented here for whatever help they may be to beginning writers.

Some leashes that jerk at readers’ necks:

  1. The word ‘As’ at the start of sentences.  eg:  As she walked out the door she looked over her shoulder.  The reader’s brain is tugged to a stop by dealing with two actions at one time.
  2. Excessive ‘-ing’ words. for similar reasons.  eg:  Walking away, Chas whistled into the wind.  I know we all had sentence-combining lessons as students and got gold stars for doing this. We get to keep the stars, but it’s well to lose a lot of gerunds.

Some styles that look strong but read weak:

  1. All caps, and nearly every single  exclamation mark. There are more powerful ways to say almost any of these.  Naturally, like everything in the world, this isn’t true for everyone. Ray Bradbury and Tom Wolfe use exclamation marks beautifully, and Stephen King uses all caps.
  2. Sounds spelled out.  It looks a bit early-reader and takes away the our pleasure in imagining the sounds.

I’m glad authors differ in styles, strengths, and emphases, because I like to read new books, and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town: The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

Be Your Own Developmental Editor

Why would an acquisitions editor reject a story by a good writer?

The answer is often,  I can’t tell what the story is about. This response, or its cousins The conflict was slow to emerge, and There’s no story here, shows that structural problems are spoiling the party and you need a developmental editor.

But developmental editors are pricey

It’s handy (and inexpensive) to learn some of the tricks of the trade of the developmental editor. Here are a few, remembering that everybody, of course, works differently:

  1. If you’re a planning outliner, you might outline, not just the plot, but the plot for every character. (You’ll still surprise yourself when you draft.) If you’re more of a “pantser,” then outline after you’ve done the job. You’ll see what, if anything, is missing.
  2. Act 1 is the set-up; Act 2 is the Fun and Games (see Blake Snyder, Save the Cat) and Darkest Hour; Act 3 is the Showdown and Finale. If you have all these, and you’re still a good writer getting turned down, then you might be writing in a linear fashion. You’ll need to tweak unexpected, previously set-up, twists and turns. You get these when characters make tough choices they would never previously make. (see Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel.)
  3. To set your POV, make sure the first page, and every scene start after that, sets up the following: Time of Day, Place (setting, era), the Promise of Genre, Tone, and a hint at the Central Conflict.
  4. To keep readers, including acquisitions editors, carrying the torch of interest from the end of one scene to the start of the next, look at each scene ending and remove any last sentences that seem to finish things off.

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” – Truman Capote.

I hope you’ll have another great week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town,The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman. Get it here.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

End With a New Beginning

The End:

EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR

Vader’s ship spins out of control with a bent solar fin, heading for deep space.

 INT. DARTH VADER’S COCKPIT

Vader turns round and round in circles as his ship spins into space.

Spinning that Vader craft out into space saves a great enemy for use in the next Star Wars film. But, it also brings just the touch of doubt and darkness that the hyper-positive medal-awards scene needs, as it concludes the film.

Even stories that will not be reprised, need a hint at conflict after the end of the story.

It’s vital to leave a plot aspect or two un-sorted at the end. With future conflict, we readers feel the satisfaction of knowing that the story is part of something bigger than itself.

For example, Sarah Waters in her literary paranormal novel The Little Stranger, opens the end out wide at the end, in a most satisfactory manner. This reader sat muttering, “Is that what I think it means? Yes. Yes, it is.” Readers feel satisfied with the ending, understanding that there won’t be a sequel, but confident that the story still continues somewhere out there, creepy, brilliant, and beautiful. Metaphorically speaking, it’s one way great writers give us the big sky we long for.

Writing Tip 22

Note down the conflict that will continue after the end of the tale, even if, in your book, the entire cosmos is demolished. Good one.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

Draft Your 5-Year Plan

Your 5-year plan inspires with big results, as your future success motivates today’s work.

 “You may wish to write down your 5-year plan for writing, year by year.  What a splendid vista of accomplishment, I must say.”

-Day 23,  A Writer’s Boon Companion : Thirty Days to an Extraordinary Volume

Dorothy Parker famously announced, “I hate writing. I love having written.” That facile little mot has been quoted much too often, and no doubt is flitting about Facebook, making writers feel small and defensively ironic about loving to write, all around the world.

I believe we ought to feel big about our careers. We writers are working hard, not in order to pump out discouraging words to the world of other hopeful writers, but to add to the rich selection of reading material in our genres.

Writing Tip: Write your author bio, as it will read five years from now.

Imagine the next 5-year s’ worth of writing. Think about the money you intend to make from it (stifle that irony). Imagine how you’ll manage it, and pay taxes on it. Think about the shelf of stories, physical or virtual, and how many volumes you intend it to hold. Write your bio for 5-years from now. It’ll give you great direction, like writing the end of the book first, and that is another excellent practice.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

Climbing Mountains, Placing Description. Writing Tips from Pulp Literature Press.

It kills me when I hear readers complain that there’s too much description in a book. In my experience as an acquisitions editor, most “unneccesary” description is only misplaced.

“When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across mountains and valleys and things, and you get the first view of something and you write it down.” -Roald Dahl

3 places readers need us to give them description.

  1. While the POV character is pursuing the story goal, it’s vital to show what’s going on. Not during the planning, not during the reaction to raised stakes, but during the active quest for the goal.
  2. When the reader is gagging to know what is in the letter, under the carpet, or outside the door. Make the reader wait with a bit of description.
  3. After the POV character has reacted to the raised stakes, there is a moment to remember what’s at stake. Descriptive writing is absolutely necessary here to remind the character, and readers, exactly why the struggle is necessary.

“Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up.” -Roald Dahl

A great example of description perfectly placed and timed to move the story onwards.

Take a look at the scene in Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie has found a dollar and will buy a chocolate bar. Magic.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

Running with the Theme

Here’s a fun game—spot the theme, as stated in the first half of the first act of the novel or film, usually by a supporting character or similar. What about the moment in Spectre when Moneypenny, on the phone with Bond, tells James she can’t help him just then because she has a life, and he should get one too?  Because, there may be shooting, peril, fab inventions, and mad escapes, but in my view (not the only view, obviously) the film’s theme is, It’s hard to get a life, when you’re Bond.

 Your Writing Tip: Run with the Theme.

In The Wizard of Oz, look for Professor Marvel to state the theme in his conversation with the runaway Dorothy in Act 1. The theme is repeated throughout. There’s no place like home. So, for a strong line, write out the theme 3-6 different ways. You can use each of these in strong but subtle ways to draw out the theme throughout the story.

One Theme, Several Ways.

Here’s part of a list of different views on the same theme that I wrote for ‘Stella Ryman and the Ghost at the End of the Bed’, the ninth Fairmount Manor Mystery novella starring my octogenarian sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home. (Pulp Literature, Issue 16.)

  1. Reach out or die.
  2. Without connection, we’re just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
  3. If we can let go of loving people, we might form new and greater passions. What would they be?
  4. Or, maybe it’s the other way around, and all the love we feel makes supports for more passions.
  5. In Fairmount Manor we residents are like hermits or saints, who must connect to nature because we’ve cut ties with the world.

(The author takes no responsibility for the views of her characters.)

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

Five Minutes, Five Stories: Pulp Literature Writing Tips

Even at the start of a new tale, it’s worth thinking about the next five stories in your body of work.

“Yes, the story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Jules Renard.

Talk about your cool self-confidence, Jules Renard. But it’s possible, even probable, that all our stories exist in Renard’s “some place,” viz. the fertile fields of our writing minds. It’s tempting to push these upcoming stories away to concentrate on the work at hand.

Visit five future tales

Without sacrificing progress on a work-in-progress, it’s worth taking a look now and then at the broader creative vista.

Your writing tip: take five

Take five minutes to list the next five tales before you. Your writing mind will benefit from this ‘heads-up’ (pun intended) on future plotting. And, in this way you remind yourself that you are not only writing, you are a writer by trade, and yours is a great future in our field.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

The One Word Writing Tip

Some movie titles resonate over the decades, with just a single word:
GreedSupermanHeistMementoCharade.

 One Great Word

I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. I admire the way he joins the inner and outer conflicts in the single word, crossing. The outer problem is finding the point of crossing between victim and murderer. The inner problem is that hero ex-cop Bosch faces crossing a line he swore he’d never cross, in order to solve a murder mystery.

Your Writing Tip: One Word Two Ways

Find one word that describes your protagonist’s story. You get bonus points for pulling off a similar grand feat as the one above. That is, connecting the inner and outer struggle through a single word with two meanings. Moments of clarity like this may help inform an entire story and save truckloads of revision time.

I hope you’ll have another  brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, pick up her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

This is the End. Writing Tips at Pulp Literature Press

Sometimes the end of the book seems so far off that a writer starts to feel that fashions will have changed and technology moved on to a still more distant generation before we’re likely to finish it.

The End is Closer Than You Think

Still, objects in the rearview mirror, and all that. The end is nearer than you’d think, so long as you keep this writing destination in mind. The writing brain knows its business, but if an author can’t picture the final scene, the brain is likely to follow its many interests, tracking a long and winding road through the story map. And then … massive rewriting.

Start With the End in Mind

When starting a story, take a few minutes to write the end. This could be

  • the last word,
  • the last sentence,
  • the last paragraph,
  • the final scene.

Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. Remind yourself that you are the respectful and fun boss of you, and you can change it completely if you like.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

 

Tough Choices = Character Development

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” ― Robert McKeeStory: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Consider a number of things that are wrong in a protagonist’s life at the start of the story. Listing them, either before or during development,  produces a template for character development.

Character Development via Tough Choices

Inner and outer problems set the stage for tough and even impossible choices.  The protagonist will have to do what she or he would never have done earlier in the book. That, in a nutshell, is character development. Supporting characters and antagonists go through this process, too, but their real job is to force the protagonist to make those choices.

Choices: Your Writing Tip

Make a list of 6-10 things wrong in your protagonist’s interior and exterior life at the start of the book. The protagonist’s tough choices in dealing with these inner and outer problems drives your story ahead.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens.  She is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires